The natural son of Owain Gwynedd by Pyfog, an Irishwoman. Hywel played a leading part in the occupation of Ceredigion by the house of Gwynedd. His father assigned southern Ceredigion to him in 1139. There was continual strife between him and his uncle Cadwaladr who held northern Ceredigion and Meirionydd. In 1143 Hywel drove his uncle out of Ceredigion. In 1144 there was a reconciliation and Cadwaladr was reinstated. In 1145 Hywel and his half-brother Cynan tried unsuccessfully to storm Cardigan castle, which had remained in Norman hands. In 1146 Hywel joined forces with Cadell of Deheubarth against the Normans of West Wales; they took the castles of Carmarthen, Llanstephan, and Wiston. In 1147 Hywel and Cynan drove Cadwaladr out of Meirionydd. When Cadwaladr handed over northern Ceredigion to his son Cadfan, Hywel invaded that territory, captured Cadfan (1150) and occupied the new castle at Llanrhystud. Meanwhile, the princes of Deheubarth, Cadell and his brothers, to whom Ceredigion rightfully belonged, overran the southern part; by 1153 they had recovered northern Ceredigion also, and Hywel's career there was at an end. In 1157 Hywel was with his father in the Basingwerk campaign against Henry II. In 1159 he accompanied a Norman force from Carmarthen against the lord Rhys, then in revolt against Henry II. This move was probably prompted by Owain Gwynedd's desire to keep on good terms with the Crown. We hear little more of Hywel until his death in battle against his half-brothers near Pentraeth, Anglesey (1170), in the strife that followed the death of Owain Gwynedd. Hywel was buried at Bangor.
Hywel is probably better known as a poet. He was pre-eminent in his day as a lyric poet. He was not restricted as to subject matter as were the professional court bards; he sang of love and of the natural beauty of his native Gwynedd. Eight of his poems survive; they are printed in Myv. Arch., i, 275-8.
Published date: 1959
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